The Ten Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer
Penguin Group 2009
The Ten Year Nap is a compassionate, realistic look at the joys and pains of motherhood. Many books about mothers come off as trite and repetitive. Wolitzer portrays the difficulties of balancing raising children, pursuing a career and maintaining some semblance of self. But she shows the joys that occur as well, sometimes in the same moments.
This novel follows four women, good friends who are at different places in life. Amy is the mother of Mason, who is now in elementary school. Amy wonders what her purpose is now that her child is gone for most of the day. Jill and her husband Donald have adopted little Nadia. Jill is having a difficult time bonding with her child and making new friends in their new neighborhood. Roberta’s husband finds unexpected success with his career, leaving her jealous of his success and wondering what happened to the dreams she put aside for her children. Karen wonders if she gave up a passion for mathematics to please her parents, who had to work so hard to provide for their family.
Wolitzer focuses a large portion of the novel on each of these women, but she supplements it with quick looks into the lives of women of earlier generations, including the mothers of the four main characters, Margaret Thatcher and her assistant, and even Nadia Comaneci. It often seems gratuitous when authors include so many characters, but in the case of The Ten Year Nap, it perfectly illustrates what former generations of mothers did for their children and the things that remain the same despite their efforts. This book doesn’t forget the fathers either. While this book is heavily about motherhood, we do get a brief glimpse of a father who wishes he could stay home with his children, but feels it is not an option available to him.
By employing a large cast of characters, Wolitzer doesn’t come across as judgmental about any of their parenting styles or decisions. This novel could be read by any mother at many different points in their lives, because in each reading they would find moments that are relatable. I read this book in one day and found myself laughing and relating to the characters.
“There was always so much to do. There were lists and plans and schedules that were essential to a well-run household and that were still laughably, almost hysterically, tedious. You, the brainy, restless female, were the one who had to keep your family life rolling forward like a tank. You, of all people, were in charge of snacks.”
"You stayed around your children as long as you could, inhaling the ambient gold shavings of their childhood, and at the last minute you tried to see them off into life and hoped that the little piece of time you’d given them was enough to prevent them from one day feeling lonely and afraid and hopeless. You wouldn't know the outcome for a long time."